Online Chat Support 101: Your Guide to Live Chat Support for Businesses and Employees

Looking to learn more about online chat support? We've broken down the benefits, implementation guidelines, and more.

Today’s consumers want you to get them. They want you to get that they’re busy, get that making a return takes effort, and get that ordering something online can be nerve-wracking.

Enter online chat support. By providing your customers with an instant line of communication to your support team, you’re giving customers the experience they want.

When they run into a roadblock, they can pop on your website and instantly ask a question. They don’t need to stop what they’re doing to wait on the phone. Online chat support helps your customers, which is why consumers, namely Millennials, prefer live chat over every other communication channel. 

If you’re considering offering online chat support or want to improve what you’ve already got, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll take a practical approach to helping you understand online chat support, its benefits, and some best practices to follow. We’ll also cover how to add online chat support to your site and answer some questions about careers in customer support.

What is Online Chat Support?

Remember the last time you visited an ecommerce site and a chat bubble appeared asking you if you needed any help? If not, here’s an example from the subscription clothing rental brand, Nuuly.

This is online chat support.

In more technical terms, online chat support is a software that is embedded on a company’s website. The software greets customers upon site arrival, allowing customers to have text-based conversations in a window that lives on the website. 

The Benefits of Online Chat Support

The world is digital and customer demands for immediate attention are at an all-time high. Customers have an abundance of options when it comes to interacting with brands online, and not a lot of patience.

As such, the main benefit of online chat support is providing a convenient and on-demand way for customers to get in touch with customer support agents from your company, providing motivation to stick with your company. Let’s look at some additional benefits of online chat support.

Offer an excellent customer experience

The benefits of top-notch customer service cannot be understated. This is especially true considering 90% of Americans say customer service is critical to their choice in selecting and being loyal to a brand.

When it comes to customer service, brands have several options, including in-person, phone, email, and chat support. Stats show that customers prefer live chat support over other customer support channels, and that live chat has the highest satisfaction levels (73%) when compared with email (61%), and phone (44%).

Live chat is convenient and provides immediate answers to questions, improving the overall customer experience.

Be easily accessible to customers

Customers get frustrated when they have to navigate your website in depth or even take to Google to find customer support information.

If providing an excellent customer experience is your goal, then live support is the answer. Live chat support software embeds the chat box in your website, so it appears in the corner of your home page. 

Live chat support boxes are easy for any customer to quickly identify and navigate with ease.

Personalize the customer support experience

One of the biggest benefits of offering online chat support is you can personalize your communication, based on the type of customer that connects with you.

Adam Hempenstall, CEO and Founder of Better Proposal, shares how the team at his company accomplishes this. 

“Within the same hour, we have a freelancer asking us to sign up, and an enterprise company with 500 users. You need a different chat strategy for those two types of customers and no one can handle that better than an experienced live customer representative. Live chat is by far the best and easiest way to benefit from a variety of visitors coming to your website,” says Hempenstall.

Help customers get answers instantly

Did you know that 90% of customers say an immediate response is important or very important when they have a customer service question. And, 60% of those customers report immediate means in 10 minutes or less.

Online chat support provides a way for customers to get answers to their questions instantaneously. 

Say goodbye to inconvenient phone calls or hold times

It’s probably safe to say that no one likes calling customer service, and no one likes waiting on hold. 

In fact, research shows that nearly 60% of customers will only wait on hold for one minute before they will hang up.

With online chat, you can give your customers access to immediate answers, eliminating—or significantly reducing—hold times.

Online Chat Support Best Practices to Consider

While adopting an online chat support software comes with instant benefits, there are several ways to optimize your online chat support to provide added value. Here are some online chat support best practices to keep in mind.

Be human

A chatbot can help in the initial stages of online chat support, but there’s a time when a live agent will take the conversation. Train your online chat support agents to come across as…well…human. 

Here are some ways live chat agents can show their humanity:

  • Display agents’ names and faces
  • Use conversational language
  • Write in a friendly tone of voice
  • Ask clarifying questions to get to the root of the problem
  • Admit when you’re not sure and need additional time to get an answer
  • If needed, schedule a time to follow-up with the customer

Provide guidelines on how to have a productive conversation

Outstanding customer support doesn’t always come naturally. It’s as much of a learned skill as sales or management. Invest time and resources into training your customer support team on how to interact with customers via online chat in a way that is productive to both parties.

Here are some ideas to consider covering when coaching your live chat agents. Teach them how to:

  • Greet customers
  • Express empathy for problems
  • Probe for details to get on the same page as the customer
  • Set expectations on what problems an agent can and cannot solve via chat
  • Build boundaries to keep the conversation positive and productive
  • Provide helpful details related to the problem
  • Transition to email or phone call if necessary
  • Determine whether or not the customer is satisfied
  • End the chat
  • And more!

Let your greeting do the work

One of the reasons why over 65% of businesses use live chat is because it boosts customer support team productivity rates.

You can program most live chat tools to use AI to handle the greeting and initial questioning. This method reduces the amount of time a customer support agent needs to engage

OLIPOP’s live chat is a great example of how to make this work. Instead of jumping right into live agent chat support, OLIPOP automates the two most commonly asked questions—track and order and report an issue.

If you click on “report an issue with an order,” for example, the chat software will capture critical information such as an email address and order number before the agent jumps into the chat. 

You’ll also notice the chat software provides the option to bypass these options and start a conversation with an agent at any time.

Keep the conversation simple

Stats show that 70-93% of all communication is non-verbal. This doesn’t mean you should only engage with customers face-to-face, but it does mean that you should do everything in your power to simplify the conversation, and make your langage easy to understand.

Under every circumstance, resist the urge to introduce complexity—especially if you’re chatting with a second language speaker.

Here are some quick tips on what to do and what not to do.

Find ways to improve efficiency

An online chat tool comes with two main benefits—providing an excellent customer experience and improving the efficiency of your customer support team.

Forty-six percent of people already say that live chat is the most efficient way of communicating with a support team, but there are ways to make the process even more efficient.

Elliott Davidson, an eCommerce consultant at Contrast, offers a real-life example of how a smaller e-commerce team used live chat to run a more efficient business.

“We figured out that one of our client’s high ticket items was purchases. With this in mind, we strategically implemented live chat so that it only shows on product pages. Now, the live chat operators don’t have to have conversations about every aspect of customer service. They only engage in meaningful conversations related to purchases that can drive a bigger impact. Implementing live chat only where it was most needed on the site improved the team’s efficiency,” explains Davidson.

Here are some additional ideas e-commerce companies can make online chat more efficient:

  • Use Grammarly’s browser extension to automate spell and grammar check
  • Keep a library of answers your team can copy and paste into the chat
  • Encourage your agents to learn keyboard shortcuts
  • Make use of a chatbot when appropriate

Seamlessly integrate other channels

There are thousands of SaaS tools at your disposal to help you run your business. Chances are your customer support team uses an email service provider, a knowledge base tool, a help desk software, a CRM, a ticket system, and more.

The best way to get the most bang for your buck out of your live chat tool is to look for a platform that integrates with other popular customer support tools. In other words, make sure your customer support agents can connect critical SaaS tools to the live chat support. This will make it easier to access order numbers, send emails, and find quick answers.

Consider integrating bots

One integration that will help your teams work more efficiently is a chatbot integration. While you don’t want a chatbot to handle the entire conversation, chatbots can help with the initial stages of customer support.

Here is an example of how Ikon Pass puts chatbots to work.

When you click on the chat bubble, Ikon Pass presents a list of links to common and relevant questions for people with questions about the Ikon Pass.

If you click on “Buy 21/22 Passes,” for example, the chatbot will activate and present you with another list of options to fine-tune your question.

Each link triggers a relevant response from the chatbot, helping customers find answers to questions.

You’ll also notice Ikon Pass uses their chatbot as a sales tool. The first answer the chatbot gives you is a link to purchase an Ikon Pass. This is also an outstanding strategy.

Decide on an effective and neat ending

All good things must come to an end, and this includes every customer and agent chat session. 

The worst way to end a conversation is to ghost your customer and leave the chat with no explanation. 

Instead, confirm with your customer that you’ve solved their problem, give them clear directions with how to move forward, thank them for their time, and ask if there is anything else you can do for them.

As an added bonus, consider setting up your online chat software to send a survey after the customer interaction. This is an efficient way to capture customer feedback, which will help you fine-tune your processes for future engagements.

How to Add Online Chat Support to Your Site

Now that you know the main benefits of online chat support and how to get the most out of your tool, let’s talk about the process of adding online chat support to your e-commerce site.

Come up with an online chat strategy

Online chat support tools are customizable and you can activate different features, connect various integrations, and install the chat box on different pages on your site. 

How you end up customizing your online chat support tool will depend on your needs and the other SaaS tools your e-commerce company already uses.

Before you install the online chat tool, here are some questions to discuss with your leadership team that will help you make the best use of your new tool:

  • When do you want customers to use online chat?
  • Will you use a chatbot and what triggers do you want to use?
  • What will be your target response rate time for live chat?
  • How will you add online chat into existing support channels?
  • How will online chat integrate into existing software?
  • What training will your team need for this new channel?

Decide on a software solution that can support you

Once you’ve solidified your goals and online chat adoption strategy, it’s time to pick a software solution that will cater to all of your needs.

There are several online chat solutions available to you, but not all of them are created equal. Here are the chat features your software solution must provide:

  • Easy to integrate and implement on your website
  • Customizable to match your company’s brand and website’s design
  • Ability to choose from different sounds notifications
  • Access to smart automations to answer questions when your team is away or overloaded
  • Provides customers with different options for how to reach your team
  • Gives users browse functionality and quick-links to your knowledge base
  • Keeps all relevant information in one convenient location (e.g., customer presence status, visit history, current page info, linked conversations, etc.)
  • Lets you send attachments, emojis, create transcripts, and more
  • Integrates with other relevant SaaS solutions

Develop an implementation road map and ramp up

Digital transformation and adoption of new software takes time and can come with challenges. But adoption of new customer support strategies and technology is necessary for the growth of your business. Many executives (27%) believe that digital transformation is a matter of survival.

It’s also critical to note that 84% of digital transformations fail because of failure to adopt the technology. As such, the best way to prepare for successful implementation is to encourage employee buy-in early on in the process. 

Prioritize keeping your teams informed on why you are adopting new live chat technology, train them properly on the new tool, and listen to their feedback as you make this transition.

Understanding Online Chat Support in 2021: 10 Statistics to Know

When looking into adopting a new online chat support technology, it’s smart to read the research. 

Here are ten critical stats that will help you understand the necessity of online chat:

  1. Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel at 73%. (Econsultancy)
  1. 78% of respondents in a survey said they use live chat for sales, and 63% use it for customer support. (Zoho)
  1. 31% of online shoppers say they would be more likely to purchase after a live chat. (BoldChat)
  1. 49% of respondents saw an increase in conversions from live chat within 2 years. (Zoho)
  1. 43% said they understood their customers better within 1 year of using live chat. (Zoho)
  1. The average global customer satisfaction rating for live chat is over 83%. (Statista)
  1. 20% of shoppers prefer live chat over any other communication method. (BoldChat)
  1. The average wait time between a live chat request and the first agent response is 46 seconds. (Comm100)
  1. 73% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do for good customer service. (Forrester)
  1. Chats that are fully handled by chatbots receive higher satisfaction ratings (87.58%) over those that are  transferred to a live support agent (85.8%). (Comm100)

FAQs About Online Chat Support

How difficult is it to provide customer support via chat?

It’s not at all difficult to provide customer support via chat. You simply embed the online chat support software on your website, customize it to match your branding, and provide user access to your customer support team. The interface is easy to navigate and integrates with other SaaS software.

What is it like to work in online chat support?

Many customer service agents enjoy working in online chat support because of customers’ high-satisfaction rates. 

Today, many online chat support jobs are remote jobs, providing flexibility, internet connection at home, and high speed cables, which is an added benefit.

What online chat support software is available to me?

There are several online chat support software options available to you. 

If you’re looking for a help desk with live chat tailored to growing businesses, we believe we’ve created the best option here at Groove.

We built it from the ground up to empower small growing businesses to deliver fast, high-quality support in real-time—without overwhelming your team.

Our customers already love our world-class contact widget and knowledge base widget. Using them as a foundation, we incorporated chatbots and real-time message handling into a powerful new live chat widget.

We pride ourselves on building products for lean and mighty teams. Simply add one little code snippet to your website to embed the live chat widget anywhere on your site—no technical skills required. Keep your engineers focused on your product.

Customization options abound enabling you to keep your brand front and center—a must for growing brands. Our automations take the place of at least five agents—meaning you can successfully scale customer support without needing to hire more people.

Take it for a test drive today with a free trial—no credit card required.

How’s the job market for online chat support? How can I get a job in the chat support space?

Ecommerce businesses are growing faster than ever before, presenting a need for more online chat support agents. The best way to get a job in the online chat support space is to search jobs on LinkedIn, job sites, individual e-commerce websites, and within your network.

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